Thursday, March 30, 2017

Chamber Made Opera's therapeutic, sometimes puzzling and entirely engaging Between 8 and 9


With the knowhow to pep our sense of curiosity, you come to expect to be rewarded with the unexpected in Melbourne-based Chamber Made Opera's work. Their latest venture, Between 8 and 9, is a deeply collaborative partnership with China's Sichuan Conservatory of Music. The result is a banquet of meditative and otherworldly blending and churning of instrumental, vocal and electronic sound that powerfully distances the observer from routine and places them in an abstracted cross-cultural medium of sorts. Regardless of what you make of it, it's therapeutic, sometimes puzzling and entirely engaging.

Percussionist Wang Shuai, Between 8 and 9
As part of Melbourne's Asia TOPA Festival, Between 8 and 9 is the culmination of two year's work from what began as an impromptu performance in a Chengdu teahouse after a two-week artistic exploration. Led by Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey as part of eight performing artists, a sense of the impromptu lingers but with it comes ceremonial-like order that binds one and all in a sense of egalitarian comfort and mystique.

So what exactly happens? The number eight, representing harmony and prosperity in Chinese numerology, dictates the format. Each audience member receives an envelope containing a coloured card that identifies a spot at one of eight round tables at which they can take a seat amongst seven others. Prominent is a rectangular lazy Susan featuring geometric workings and thin rods magnetically supported on the surface that looks sculpturally appealing and mathematically perplexing. Each of the eight performers are seated at a table. Lighting is subdued as the Salon of the Melbourne Recital Hall takes on the feel of a function room, or Chinese restaurant, in which the audience unites in communal conditioning. The serenity and energy is palpable.

Wang Zheng-Ting opens with the mellifluous piping of the sheng (a form of Chinese mouth organ) to expose what feels like a vast distant landscape. It's followed by a dance-like form before identifying a world that conjures a blend of Chinese and Australian motifs as each performance artist constructs a simple scene - a circle of green silk is placed down, a square wooden block and triangular prism form a simple dwelling, a silvery circle is planted with lotus leaves and three rods stand vertical with a disc atop as if emulating a windmill. The striking visual effect is accompanied by vocally produced mosquito sounds, claps to catch them and yawns that are, of course, catchy! As one of the most captivating segments, its construct cleverly both describes and blurs differences to establish harmony when cultures come together.

Sheng master Wang Zheng-Ting, Between 8 and 9
Vocalists Zhu Hui-Qian and Kang Yan-Long exchange a mesmerising song of romance, she with a knife-edge sharp and glassy soprano, he with leonine megaphonic force. They are part of a meandering series of vignettes making up the piece that include performance artists Madeleine Flynn (pedal organ/toy piano/vintage electronics), Guo Si-Cen (erhu, a two-stringed bowed instrument), Tim Humphrey (brass/electronics), Wang Shuai (percussion) and Carolyn Connors (vocalist/accordion/winds).

Halfway through its 70-minute duration, the artists serve buckwheat tea as a carnivalesque-like Klezmer-sounding music is played by Humphrey on trumpet, Connors on accordion with Wang joining on sheng. It relieves part of the intensity while cementing a sense of unity with many fellow attendees keen to let loose in conversation.

Sung and poetically spoken Chinese and English pepper the experience alongside a clarity and resonance of musical delivery with creative producer Tim Stitz's visual influences giving an all-encompassing and striking effect.

And what of nine? In Chamber Made Opera's artists' statement we learn that nine symbolises "achievement on a higher spiritual plane" and that the work "explores the space between the two". On that level, experiencing Between 8 and 9 succeeds. With no narrative, our focus is shifted, discoveries are made and the artistry speaks to us in both a personal and collective sense through cultural differences. It makes for a priceless experience.


BETWEEN 8 AND 9
Chamber Made Opera
Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre
Until 1st April

Production photos: Jeff Busby


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Victorian Opera's bright, spright and tightly produced The Princess and the Pea


There were quite a few little princesses and some budding young suitors flocking around Arts Centre Melbourne on Saturday for Victorian Opera's latest family opera, Ernst Toch's The Princess and the Pea - a delightful sight indeed.

For this musical fairy tale in one act, lasting just 40 minutes to comfortably engage its time-poor but discerning young audience, Victorian Opera have excelled with this bright, spright and tightly produced work. It was one of just three performances all on the one day and it's another smart and impressive work to come out of the company with much to offer all ages.

Scene from Victorian Opera's The Princess and the Pea
Based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale published in 1835, Toch's musically bold, polyphonically piquant and descriptive style, in itself, was a privilege to listen to as conductor Fabian Russell percipiently buffed up the score with a fine patina via a handsomely sized and focused Victorian Opera Chamber Orchestra. Many will be familiar with the story of the young woman whose royal credentials are established by testing her physical sensitivity but few would be acquainted with Toch's rewardingly mature orchestrations, first heard at its premiere in 1927.

In director Libby Hill's creative angle on the story, we're on the TV set of an episode of Mythical Mysteries in which a flurrying and highly animated cast of actors breezily tell the tale alongside an equally animated television crew. When the princess fails to turn up for her part, the director's assistant is forced into the role as the cameras run. It just so happens that when her off-camera prince-in-waiting catches sight of her, he falls head over heals in love.

Each scene was surtitled with a brief description in English to Benno Elkan's German-sung libretto. An English translation exists but perhaps Hill's adaptation sits obliquely to this version. Nonetheless, despite the jolly good gesturing, older audience members would benefit from added nuances embedded in the text- a small quibble because the work is full of life.

In this pantomime-like world, the giggles erupted as the mattresses are stacked for "the most beautiful bed ever seen" to an amusing slapstick display before the most appropriate pea is selected from a basketful of exaggerated sizes some children I heard question.

Bless them. I didn't hear them question the juicy palette of vivid clashing colours that decorate a polka-dotted boxed set within a TV studio setting together with the eye-catching and intricately flouncy costumes by designer Candice MacAllister. Peter Darby's punchy lighting design aided in demarcating the studio and set. They fell for it. Oh, and so did I.

Olivia Cranwell, Jerzy Kowlowski, James Egglestone, Kathryn Radcliffe
It was all spun into a vibrant vocal tapestry by the seriously fine talent that took the stage in an ensemble that worked a sweet treat with their audience. Jerzy Kozlowski brought beefy-rich helpings to the pompous King with Kathryn Radcliffe haughtily parading at his side in plush-voiced splendour as the Queen. Soprano Olivia Cranwell cordially sparkled all the way in her transition from stunned crew member to the star of the show as the winsome Princess. James Egglestone milked every moment as the vain and fussy Prince even before his grand resonant tenor made an explosive opening. Michael Petruccelli and Michael Lampard cut a memorable and muscular-voiced pair as the TV Director and TV Cameraman respectively and Dimity Shepherd shone commandingly as the conscientious TV Host.

Coming to its end, we're told there's a moral to the story, "Don't judge a book by its cover". I'm glad for that because I was a little concerned that one might read a little snobbery within the pages. Still, it's a fun and highly polished show but let's just hope our little princesses attending don't turn out as precious.


Playhouse Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Three performances, 26th March

Production Photos:  Charlie Kinross


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A handsome, spit and polished HMS Pinafore from Melbourne Opera: Herald Sun Review

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts/melbourne-operas-hms-pinafore-is-a-handsome-spit-and-polished-production/news-story/c6fbc44321e626c580a3a0017887cbd6

Published online 16th March at Herald Sun and in print 17th March 2017


MELBOURNE Opera have the heavily dramatic works of Wagner’s Lohengrin and Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux to come but a completely satisfying belly-laugh start to their season docked into the Athenaeum Theatre this week in the form of HMS Pinafore.

Occasional helpings of Gilbert and Sullivan’s unique brand of contagious merriment would rarely go unappreciated by its audience. Permission to cringe is always granted, as is admitting how much you really do fancy a tune or two.

Paul Biencourt as Ralph Rackstraw and Melbourne Opera Chorus
As director of his own plays and operas, Gilbert sought realism in acting but it’s hard to think of a G&S success that doesn’t also milk the absurd. That’s exactly the approach director and choreographer Robert Ray takes in this crisply detailed and vibrant staging plump with comic nuance.

Gilbert imbued the plot with topsy turvy jollity, with its good-natured send up of the British class system, politics and of people in authority without the appropriate qualifications still able to give a pertinent sting today.

On opening night, with high qualifications to take on the position, David Gould made a priceless entrance as a seasick Sir Joseph Porter KCB, First Lord of the Admiralty and entertained to the end with his smug and gangly demeanour and pliant bass that seemed to percolate from the hull.

As lowly sailor Ralph Rackstraw, tenor Paul Biencourt was the other standout in this well-cast outfit. Lost in a dream world of love for a woman of a higher standing, Biencourt captured the heart effortlessly with a deeply impassioned performance and a treasure chest of vocal riches.

Sweet and succulent soprano Claire Lyon charmed as Rick’s love, the dutiful but industrious captain’s daughter Josephine and soared to a touching highlight, Act 2’s The hours creep on apace in which she sings of her guilt surrounding her planned elopement with Ralph.

David Gould, Claire Lyon and David Roger-Smith
Not until a person of higher rank boarded ship did David Roger-Smith take full command of his role as Captain Corcoran and, once there, sailed buoyantly and wholeheartedly along. A voluptuous-voiced Andrea Creighton brought zesty, swirling sexual energy and sorceress-like form to Little Buttercup and supporting roles were filled most commendably — Roger Howell as the downer Dick Deadeye, Finn Gilheany as the affable Bill Bobstay and Jodie Debono as the plum cousin Hebe.

From the start, Melbourne Opera Chorus sank their boots into an agile and endearing display of suitably choreographed steps, the sailors of the chorus virile of voice, the First Lord’s sisters, cousins and aunts utterly radiant.

And attired in a wardrobe of white-bleached and blue enhanced authenticity courtesy of Opera Australia, it all sparkled under lighting designer Lucy Birkinshaw’s sunny blue skies and set designer Gregory Carroll’s comically exaggerated wood-grained quarterdeck and furnishings of the spacious Pinafore.

From the pit, the music expanded excellently under conductor Greg Hocking’s well-paced delivery of the jaunty and lyrical score and from the uniformly expert playing of the 30-plus Melbourne Opera Orchestra.

The audience loved it. I did too. A few misplaced steps didn’t go unnoticed though you can’t but not see that hearty G&S blood runs thick through the team in this handsome, spit and polished production.


HMS PINAFORE

Melbourne Opera

Athenaeum Theatre until March 18 and Robert Blackwood Hall at Monash University on April 22

Rating: four stars

Production Photos: Robin Halls

Monday, March 13, 2017

A delightful and meaningful outing for The Japanese Princess from Lyric Opera of Melbourne: Herald Sun Review

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts/review-lyric-operas-the-japanese-princess/news-story/a5f11501956ee94c5104566b850a0403

Published online at Herald Sun 14th March and in print 15th March 


SAINT Saëns’ first staged opera La princesse jaune, didn’t go down well at its Paris premiere in 1872 despite it biting into the populism of the exotic at the time. Despite cracks and misconceptions in Louis Gallet’s libretto that rather eek in our more informed and politically correct modern context, praise to Lyric Opera of Melbourne for giving this one-act curio a delightful and meaningful outing for its Australian premiere — in its skin-colour-avoiding English translation, The Japanese Princess.

Michael Macfarlane, Arisa Yura and Kate Macfarlane
Under Artistic Director and conductor Pat Miller’s thoughtful command and a lush-sounding, well-rehearsed 16-member orchestra, a dose of Saint Saëns’ beautifully orchestrated, arabesque and melodic music is a pleasure in itself to hear — even with the peculiarly Arabic flavour that peers through alongside the quaintly Oriental and lyrical passages.

It tells the story of the Japan-obsessed Kornelis who becomes enamoured with the image of a Japanese princess called Ming (not a Japanese name) and Lena his fiance (as well as cousin in the libretto) who, distressed, is uncertain of his love for her. But after an absinthe-fuelled hallucination, Kornelis comes to his senses and realises his love for Lena is real, to which Lena sings how “... love chases away doubt” in her final aria. Comically, she also gives room for a new exotic obsession, perhaps reminding us that spice is a necessity in life.

Director Miki Oikawa takes this bite-sized tale of blind obsession set in Europe and seemingly infuses it with the gentle stylistic beauty of the Japanese tea ceremony. She does so via dancer Arisa Yura who, as a kimono-dressed Ming, drolly surrounds, supports and mocks the pair in this highly focused staging. Even Christina Logan Bell’s set — a small, skewed prismatic structure — bows towards the teahouse idiom. Lucy Wilkins’ early 20th century attire for Kornelis and Lena exudes an overly stiff air but it all glows comfortingly under Lucy Birkinshaw’s muted lighting. Walls are thankfully not carpeted as the libretto makes one believe of Japan. Who spread that misconception?

Michael Macfarlane as Kornelis and Kate Macfarlane as Lena
As the respectable-looking and more introverted Kornelis, tenor Robert Macfarlane sings with sentimental warmth and vigour, delivering appealing resonance and effortless rises to the top of the voice.

At his side (as in real life) Kate Macfarlane’s pure, sinuous and effervescent soprano impresses as she paces about as the loquacious and anxious Lena. As the piece demands, the two bring a strong presence and convey the domestic drama with conviction and, for the most part, carry it through to the wry comic detail. They share the season with Huw Wagner and Kimberley Colman.

As a footnote, Saint Saëns’ little opera formed part of a trio of new short works at Paris’s Opéra-Comique that season. If it’s the kind of material Lyric dig for, Bizet’s Djamileh (which also featured and is another exotic work based on a love triangle set in Cairo to a libretto by Louis Gallet), might very well turn up in the future. This kind of discovery is part of Lyric’s attraction in making going to opera so invigorating.


THE JAPANESE PRINCESS

Lyric Opera, Chapel off Chapel until March 18

Rating: three and a half stars

Production photos: Sarah Walker


Victorian Opera gives Respighi's The Sleeping Beauty a breathtaking kiss of life: Herald Sun Review

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts/review-victorian-operas-the-sleeping-beauty/news-story/5f79982276cc15d41a02a2d7b6e9fb69


Published online 13th March and in print 14th March 2017


OTTORINO Respighi himself would be mesmerised by how magically glowing his musical fable, The Sleeping Beauty, lives in Victorian Opera’s latest and highly imaginative production audiences of all ages will love.

Originally written for the puppet theatre and sung from the pit, it held the stage in Vittorio Podrecca’s puppet company I Piccoli for over 20 years after its premiere in Rome in 1922. You wonder how the work could have languished.

The King and Queen and Raphael Wong, The Sleeping Beauty
Here, Victorian Opera have teamed with puppet designer and maker Joe Blanck and director Nancy Black in an outstanding collaboration that gives it a breathtaking kiss of life with the singers firmly integrated on stage.

Respighi’s score harbours a banquet of stylistic delights and descriptive signatures that conductor Phoebe Briggs and Orchestra Victoria enliven with geniality and Black sharpens both comically and affectingly on cue.

Black brilliantly enhances the borders between what is acted, sung and characterised. The voices echo poignantly in song with the puppets, alongside which the singers give consoling warmth to their matching character as they wander, watch and wait as a contemporary community embracing the power of storytelling. The story also takes a leap outside its traditional telling with a modern day capitalist, Mister Dollar, willing to buy Sleeping Beauty. On this, think Trump.

Blanck’s puppets are an extraordinary mix of material and enchanting caricature guided by his contingent of seven flexible puppeteers who step right into the action.

There’s a trudging noble Ambassador and his trumpeting Herald, dancing Frogs, the hilarious flailing Jester, the friendly ghostlike Blue Fairy, the excitable and portly King, the graceful Queen, the hunched Old Lady and her interfering feline fur ball, the Cat. There’s the fearsome scene as the Green Fairy arrives in a storm to cast her spell on the infant Princess and another as a gruesome giant spider is wrestled and stabbed to death by the Prince. Not a moment goes by in its 80 minutes that doesn’t captivate the senses. And the singing is unwaveringly assured.

Old Lady, Nadine Dimitrievitch as the Princess and Liane Keegan
Puppeteers Vincent Crowley and Nadine Dimitrievitch act the Prince and Princess with dance-like charm while mighty tenor Carlos E. Bárcenas and the floating soprano of Jacqueline Porter bring their union to the contemporary fore.

Other memorable performances come from Raphael Wong’s hefty-voiced King, Sally Wilson’s grief-stricken Queen, Elizabeth Barrow’s silky and scintillating Blue Fairy, Zoe Drummond’s sparkling Nightingale, Liane Keegan’s luscious-voiced Old Lady, Timothy Newton’s dignified Ambassador and Stephen Marsh’s warm and oaky Woodcutter.

But, plaudits to all involved and to Victorian Opera in another energised production. And when the Prince sings O, magic vision to the sleeping Princess before the kiss, you sense he sings the thoughts his audience has of the entire performance.


THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

Victorian Opera

Playhouse Theatre, Arts Centre until March 18

Rating: four and a half stars

Production photos: Charlie Kinrosss

Monday, February 27, 2017

A beautifully realised Il trovatore from Melbourne's CitiOpera: Herald Sun Review

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts/cityopera-presentsverdis-thrilling-middleperiod-1853-opera-il-trovatore/news-story/17dbf7ac002f8c709d10b78a31898cde

Published online Monday, 27th February and in print Tuesday, 28th February.

AT Saturday night’s opening of Verdi’s thrilling middle-period 1853 opera, Il trovatore (The Troubadour), CitiOpera’s meritorious effort accompanied their first foot in the door of the Athenaeum Theatre.

Chorus of gypsies, Act 2,  CitiOpera's Il trovatore
With its story residing in a grim melting pot of infanticide, revenge and mystery on a background of civil war, a love triangle is blown apart in a tragic finale few might see coming.

From director Stella Axarlis, what began with shades of cardboard-cutout dramatisation later gave way to full-bodied character immersion. The numerous fighting scenes, however, demanded more fluidity and aggression.

Axarlis and her creative team open the work in a time that reflects the 1930s Spanish Civil War then, for no apparent reason, plants it comfortably back in its original 16th-century setting. Nevertheless, it is beautifully realised with sharp and vibrant aesthetics.

Designer Erika Kimpton-Etter’s spare use of furnishings and large background projections of scene-defining architectural images allow full use of the tight stage. With Silvia and Fred Scodellaro’s refined costumes and Daniel Jow’s brooding lighting, the total effect becomes deceivingly multidimensional.

Four punishingly demanding principal roles shape the plot in which Verdi’s score creates ongoing tension. As again, Italian conductor Gaetano Colajanni’s contribution was invaluable, demonstrating a hunger to elucidate every turn and giving all four acts a sensitive and potent reading. Not a nerve hindered the 23-member orchestra who delivered with excellence.

Fiona Jopson and Yoon Byung Kil
In a startling performance that signals a solid career ahead, 2015 Herald Sun Aria winner Fiona Jopson enchanted as the appropriately noble Leonora, holding the stage alone in a performance highlight in Act 4’s D’amor sull’ali rosee / “On the rosy wings of love”. Jopson inhabited her role with poise and ease, portraying her character’s complexities from little joys to anguish with a gleaming soprano ripe with elegance, dynamism and flexibility.

She gives her heart convincingly to titular troubadour Manrico, who sturdy Italianate Korean tenor Yoon Byung Kil imbued with fortitude alongside some overly battle-ready stoicism that eventually melts in Ah sì, ben mio, coll’essere / “Ah, yes, my love, in being yours”, Acts 3’s emotional assurance of his love for Leonora.

Mezzo-soprano Helen Hill served up a dark and rich brew as Manrico’s adopted mother, Azucena, but vocal and dramatic gaps in the taxing destructible force to avenge her mother’s death on the pyre tarnished the impact.

With the capacity to embody a range of Verdian baritone roles, emerging young artist Samuel Thomas-Holland impressed with savvy use of text and a vast range of vocal ammunition to characterise the odious Count di Luna’s frightening extremes. As his Captain of the Guard, Adam Jon cut a finely polished Ferrando and smaller roles down to the one-liners were also handled admirably.

Bar a few wobbles, the voluntary chorus didn’t miss their chance to shine either as soldiers and gypsies but, as nuns, the most radiant-voiced singing ascended. And, the popular Anvil Chorus? That, thankfully, came with sound hammering vitality.

Now it’s up to Citiopera to keep the momentum going, build its audience and unfurl their next project before the year’s out.


Athenaeum Theatre, until 4th March
Frankston Arts Centre, 12th March
Wyndham Cultural Centre, 25th March

Rating: three and a half stars


Production photos: Robin Halls

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A haunting, edgy and strongly sung triumph: Scartazzini's world premiere of Edward II at Deutche Oper Berlin


Brought to the stage by Deutsche Oper Berlin and directed by Christof Loy, Swiss composer Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini's much anticipated world premiere work, Edward II, arrived in a dramatically layered, haunting, edgy and strongly sung triumph on Sunday night.

Michael Nagy as Edward II
King of England from 1307-27, Edward II's reign was problematic for more than his failures in an ongoing war with Scotland. Controversy brewed over his patronage of a small circle of favourites and, in this story's context, one of them in particular had to be disposed of.

Based on Christopher Marlowe's Edward II: The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England, with the Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer (c.1592) as well as other sources, librettist Thomas Jonigk vividly and brutally highlights Edward II's personal tragedy, focusing on the crisis Edward faces in staunchly holding onto a love he can neither live without nor able to hold onto power with - the sinful love for another man in the context of religious contradictions, power struggles and homophobic attitudes.

Scartazzini and Jonigk eschew dry historical storytelling by crafting its structure with something of altered realities that blend Edward's premonition-like nightmares with events that mix the period and modern. The language effuses sarcasm, is direct and uncensored ("arsefucker" and "cocksucker" aren't used gratuitously). It's also strikingly realised by the design team that gives the work well-packaged tightness.

The main action takes place almost always across the breadth of the fore-stage and with great impact. Annette Kurz's set design features a medieval-inspired imposing memorial-like stone tower (no doubt politely alluding to a phallus) that stands to the left, with its small circular interior a capsule for secondary layers of action (usually sodomitic) with access to the rear stage. To the right, much open area exists for the large chorus gatherings and, though a single set, it always serves Loy's unabashed and often confronting direction. Klaus Bruns's costumes gravitate towards the smart and spiffy contemporary with elements of the exaggerated and Stefan Bolliger's lighting design adds depths of intrigue.

Ladislav Elgr as Gaveston and Michael Nagy 
Opening as the first of ten scenes that both segue and overlap, Edward in a dreams, is taunted by his people and bears witness to the shocking and violent sexual torture of his lover Piers de Gaveston. A mock wedding for them ensues that becomes a powerful piece of theatre full of pain, humiliation and injustice rarely seen on stage.

When, near the opera's end, a crowd is directed to the "Next room", we are given the sense that we're watching the "malleable" masses (the same ones who earlier revolted against and persecuted their king) being shown a curious contemporary exhibit of a museum diorama brought to life and leaves a powerful taste that has one question morality and justice as much of the work does.

Scartazzini's thrashing, restless and episodic 90-minute score is dotted by a tribal-like beat and cacophonous percussion that describe the tumultuous events and which conductor Thomas Søndergard leads to give much dramatic effect. The work includes scenes for a large and snarling chorus of citizens and the Chor der Deutchen Oper Berlin obliged in big and excellent voice even though a couple of times they kept the soloists from ringing through.

Still, opening night came across well-rehearsed and showed off some very appealing voices and performances as part of a superbly integrated and committed cast that aid in giving the work much throbbing theatricality.

Hefty-voiced baritone Michael Nagy plunged deep into the title role as Edward II, a star vehicle exhibiting the troubled, lascivious and madly in love king with a sting to his performance as he enters a path of no return. Nagy easily captured the sturdiness and range of the vocal writing but it's in the lower reaches of the voice that an enormous treasure chest of wealth opened up.

Edward's lover is easily identified by the strapping athletic good looks of Ladislav Elgr who depicts Gaveston as a provocative man who spends most of his time in white boxers and singlet. Elgr's liquid bright tenor compliments Nagy's broad and ripe sound and he portrays the victimised Gaveston with remarkable feeling. Importantly, the two make a compelling pair in love.

As Isabella, Agneta Eichenholz eloquently conveys the queen's frustration of languishing in a loveless marriage and subsequent spiteful air as she plots with her lover Roger Mortimer to depose the king. Eichenholz just as easily floats the music as she does in carrying it resonantly large into the sizeable Deutche Oper Theatre and she does so with compelling expressivity.

Jarrett Ott as the Angel and Michael Nagy as Edward II
Andrew Harris is a menacing presence as Mortimer and his brawny-voiced and huge capacity bass got an impressive workout. Another firm performance comes from the more burnished baritone of Jarrett Ott as the Angel only Edward can see and who shares a devastatingly haunting scene with Edward in his final moments.

Burkhard Ulrich carries of the luscious fabric costumed contradictory and sinister Walter Langton, as Bishop of Coventry, with aplomb, his wiry and ringing tenor appropriate in the role. And providing light relief but charged with loads of wit, Markus Brück and Gideon Poppe pair wonderfully together in their exploits as soldiers, councillors and tour guides in a hoot as their sexual persuasions and fetishes are ignited and tested.

When Edward learns of Gaveston's actual murder, it is from his own son who delivers the gruesome account. With it comes an innocence that belies the atrocity via the purity and sweetness of its rendition by young Ben Kleiner as the questioning young Prince Edward. It's one of many moments that lift the art of opera and theatre in a work that will no doubt be looking to a solid and exciting future.


Deutche Oper Berlin
Until 9th March

Production photos: Monika Rittershaus